Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Whirlwind Wednesday...

might become a theme on this blog. It seems like I'm constantly reaching mid-week before I finally get a chance to catch my breath and reflect on our goings on. I think because on Mondays we're trying to get our school week started in the morning, then Sunshine has her gym class in the afternoon; then on Tuesdays she has Girl Scouts in the early evening, so either Papa Bear gets home and almost immediately leaves with her, or else her troop leader picks her up to bring her, and Papa Bear joins Sunshine at her meeting. So even though we're already to mid-week, this is our first day of the week with nothing going least, for now.

First off, aside from detesting his ear drops, Fidget is doing quite well since getting his ear tubes out in and adenoids cauterized last week. I'm absolutely amazed how quickly I have noticed an improvement in his enunciation. Words are definitely coming out more clearly now. Tomorrow morning will be his first speech therapy visit since getting his tubes, so I can't wait to get his therapist's professional opinion on his improvements. And speaking of therapies, we got confirmation from our case worker that the state has approved our request to add OT to his early intervention services, and our second choice therapist has accepted us as clients. I'm giving her until the end of the week to contact us; otherwise I'll be calling her to set up our first appointment.

As well, yesterday we had our intake appointment with our clinical supervisor from CARD, the Center for Autism and Related Disorders, which is the organization that will be providing Fidget with in-home ABA therapy. She has a PhD in behavioral analysis, and been with CARD since 1999, so I have great confidence in her abilities to oversee our ABA team. We had a good two hour discussion about his history and current abilities & struggles. Fidget was even "kind" enough to demonstrate some of his most problematic behaviors while she was here. Dr. PhD is recommending 35-40 hours a week, so once things get rolling that will likely mean 3-4 hours in the morning, and another couple hours in the evening, six days a week! I try not to think about the sheer volume of the therapy and how we're going to make it all work too much, not because I'm in denial but just to avoid feeling overwhelmed. But however it works in practice we'll deal with; my #1 earthly goal for each of my children is for them to be the best version of themselves possible, and as their mother my most important task is to give them each the tools needed to meet that goal. So if ABA gives him the best set of tools, then ABA it shall be.

Likewise for Sunshine; our biggest reason for deciding to homeschool was because we felt that for THIS child, at THIS time in her life, homeschooling would give her the best tools to be the best version of herself. Public and parochial schools do great things for many children, and the vast majority of teachers and other professionals working in the school systems are hardworking, devoted men and women who don't get near the appreciation they deserve. We aren't ruling out the possibility of either child transitioning to a traditional brick-and-mortar school later on; we're just taking things one year at a time and seeing what each of them needs in that moment. Especially for Fidget: we certainly have several years until we reach that point, but I would have no hesitation to admit if he needs more specialized help than I am comfortable giving him. But with countless hours of multiple therapies between now and then, it's not a decision we'll worry about until its time comes.

At this moment in time, Sunshine is absolutely thriving in homeschool, and I don't regret our decision at all. Because her birthday is late in the year, our school system would have required her to be in kindergarten this school year. We did start with a kindergarten curriculum, but let her move at her own pace, and since graduating pre-k last spring has not only completed kindergarten but is almost done with first grade! The public schools in our area are finishing school this week, but since we didn't move on to first grade until September, plus the need to take time off here and there for surgeries, general illness, bereavement, etc we still have about 40 school days to complete. But I'm not worried about it; as long as we keep chipping away at things over the summer we'll get there when we get there. It's been such a joy this year to follow her down the rabbit trails of things she wanted to learn, to be alongside her when she would have "ah-ha" moments as new concepts clicked, and it also gave us more opportuities to talk about emotional issues and work through some of her behavioral struggles. One thing she is lamenting is the lack of regular playmates, esp during the day. She plays quite a bit with the neighborhood kids in the afternoon/evenings, but when none of them are able to play she finds it hard to cope with. Partly I think this is because her brother has not yet become the reciprocal playmate we would have expected. The other part of it is that life  circumstances have caused us to not be as active in our local homeschool group as we had hoped. Hopefully we'll be able to participate more in the upcoming school year, or at least set up more play date visits at our house. My childhood best friend has a daughter who is only 6mo older than Sunshine, and they are homeschoolers as well. The girls are two peas in a pod just like their mommies; they're coming over for a visitFriday afternoon, so Sunshine has been looking forward to that all week.

We'll also be continuing both gymnastics and scouts in the fall. This week was the last week of her spring gymnastics session, but we decided to take the summer off from gym so that she can enjoy some other opportunities: swimming lessons, vacation bible school, and *hopefully* a three day/two night session of resident camp. She's been away from home for that long many times, but always staying with family. I'm talking to some of the other scout moms to see if anyone else is interested; I think I've found one of the girls who might like to go at the same time. If she has a friend to go with I am confident she'll be ready to go; if she has to go on her own, it's a bit more up in the air. Their troop is going to camp for the day on Saturday, so I'm hoping that will give her "camp fever" and help her feel both more excited and more confident about an overnight trip.

As for myself, I'm just doing what it takes to stay afloat around here. I'm coming down with the sinus crud the kids had last week, plus Papa Bear is traveling for work right now, so my hands and time are quite full juggling my health, the kids, the daily household chores, making all of our summer arrangements, researching complementary therapies for Fidget, and soon will need to make some choices on Sunshine's curriculum for the fall. One thing is for certain: even an ordinary day around here is never boring!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Answer Me This: May 18

Before I start on today's Answer Me This, I'd like to share a couple of pictures from yesterday afternoon. Earlier in the day we went to a graduation party for Fidget's Godmother, who graduated from college. Then in the afternoon Sunshine was playing outside while Fidget napped, and was complaining about the heat (get used to it kiddo!) and asking to play on the Slip-n-Slide. Papa Bear had to cut part of the back yard first once he got home, then he helped her set it up to play while he finished mowing. After awhile, and once he was finished, she decided that it wasn't exciting enough, and decided to relocate it. After turning the water off, disconnecting the hose, moving the Slip-n-Slide, and reconnecting everything, she finally got to do this:

From the swingset slide down onto the slip-n-slide!
She was so proud of coming up with the idea and executing it all on her own! I put some cotton balls in Fidget's ears and let him go out too, and he did play on the slip-n-slide a little bit, but mostly he had fun pushing his cozy coupe and toy 4-wheeler through the muddy water that collected in the low spot of the yard.


And now for this week's Answer Me This, linking up this week on Candles for Michaelmas!

1. What's the scariest thing that's ever been in your yard?
Snakes! As you can see from the above photo, our back yard backs up to a wooded area, some of which is still part of our property. Most of the things from the woods are innocent enough: a family of rabbits, an occasional pair of armadillos, and a possum once. But a couple of times the snakes have gotten brave; once while we were still building my parents came upon one in our kitchen, and when Sunshine was younger there was a snake on the back porch one late evening. Because it was dark, Papa Bear killed it before realizing it was a King Snake (non-venomous, and they help keep down pest populations), but in that case he had to act first then ask questions.

2. Beards. Thumbs up or thumbs down?
Not a big fan of a full beard, but I prefer when Papa Bear grows out a goatee. Sometimes for work he has to shave it down to just a mustache, and it just doesn't seem like him. A little on the chin definitely suits him.

3. If stuff breaks, can you fix it?
Quite often, yes, or I find someone who can. I hate how disposable our society has become. In my parents and grandparents' day, things were built to last. These days, you can often buy the latest and greatest for cheaper than you can repair your older model. Unfortunately, there's a lot of truth behind the saying "They don't make things like they used to!

4. What was your first car?
A 1994 Pontiac Bonneville. I inherited it from my mom when I moved back to Louisiana from 5 years living away at college. Because I attended a university in a major city with excellent public transportation, I never had a license the entire time I was in college. Unless I got an occasional ride with a friend, I pretty much walked or took the bus everywhere. I miss living that way; it certainly helped keep me fit!

5. How often do you eat out?
If you include pizza delivery or Papa Bear picking up takeout, maybe once a week? Actually in a restaurant is a lot less. We've been slacking a bit on the menu planning with so many appointments and Papa Bear working seven days a week right now, but with Fidget getting ready to start ABA therapy soon, we really need to tighten up the budget wherever we can. Since Papa Bear's company is headquartered in Florida, and they have laws mandating coverage for autism treatments, we know ABA will be covered with no limit on the number of visits, but I assume we'll be on the hook for copays? We have an appointment on Tuesday for an intake evaluation for an in-home ABA provider, so I assume I'll find out more then.

6. Why is your hair like that?
Because I'm not very adventurous with my hair and need a wash & wear style, so I really haven't changed my hairstyle in ages. Shoulder length with layers in the back, NO BANGS (I hated growing them out in middle school, so I haven't cut more in my hair or Sunshine's ever since), and often pulled back in a ponytail. Particularly at bedtime, I can't stand hair tangled around my neck. Sometimes I'll get a couple shades of highlights put over my natural base color, but I haven't done that in probably over a year. I might again soon though, my hair has definitely darkened as I aged, and I miss being able to call myself a blonde. I was always a dark blonde, now though I'm more of a light brown. I think this year, with everything we've dealt with so far, I need something a bit more fun for the summer!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Friday Flexibility

One of my favorite things about homeschooling is the flexibility it affords us. It's so freeing to not be tied down to a schedule made by the folks at the school board, and take half days or entire days off whenever we need or want to do so. Sometimes it's for illness, sometimes it's to celebrate holidays, sometimes we're taking advantage of Papa Bear's work schedule, sometimes just for a nice day. This is very much the latter.

Sunshine is pretty much over her cold, just a little cough to still work out, and has a whole week's worth of energy built up. Fidget is back to normal after his post-op crankiness yesterday. And me? I've been juggling so many balls lately that sometimes I need to just set them down for awhile, and let someone else run the circus for a day or so. The weather has been absolutely beautiful the last few days; not only clear but unseasonably cool for our area: we actually set a record low of 50 yesterday morning! The windows have been open day and night, and I just can't make myself ask Sunshine to do schoolwork. We certainly have plenty of it to do: our school year isn't done yet, and with her sick and his ear tube surgery yesterday not much has gotten done this week; but this weather is too perfect to not let her enjoy it. Right now I'm sitting here in my office, watching Sunshine swing with the sound of laughter streaming in on the breeze through the open window while Fidget naps in their room on the other side of the wall. He spent most of the morning happily playing with is Thomas trains, he'll probably get out in the yard with his sister when he wakes up.

We have all summer to get these last 40 or so days of school done. On many of those days, it will be so unbearably hot that she can't spend much time outside anyway. I'd rather have her doing school work then, than miss taking advantage of this lovely day.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

What a Wild Week!

Am I still at the zoo? Things in our house have been so crazy this week, sometimes I'm not sure. I'll have to get back to my post on the Blessed Mother's impact on my motherhood later. After all, the whole month of May is dedicated to honoring her, so I have time, right?

Things around here have really been crazy since before Mother's Day. Last Friday I took Fidget in to his pediatrician for a pre-op checkup. He never had problems with his ears until around 18 months, but had several back to back in the fall, and a hearing test as part of his Early Intervention intake revealed some hearing deficits. I took him to my ENT since Dr. B also sees kids, and he diagnosed him with "glue ear" and recommended ear tubes and adenoid removal. Anyway, I had thought it would be a quick in and out visit, home by lunchtime, but first she said we'd have to go somewhere else for the bloodwork since they don't do one of the necessary tests in office. Then as we were still talking, I had a crown fall off a back molar! So after we got done with the pediatrician we picked up lunch, stopped to get the bloodwork done, then just drove around killing time (trying to get Fidget to nap) until it was time for my emergency dentist appt. My mom dropped me off, then took the kids back home to Papa Bear while I was in the dentist. Dr. W got my crown cemented back on for now, but eventually it will need a post and new crown. By the time Papa Bear & the kids came to pick me up, there was a torrential prolonged rain. Traffic was a nightmare, and there was localized street flooding in some areas.  We decided the weather was too bad to go out to eat, so we just fought our way home and picked up some chicken along the way. We were almost home - in the neighborhood - but came upon someone who had run off our flooded streets into a ditch. The efforts to remove him from the ditch took a good 45 minutes, so by the time we were finally back home my "quick trip" to the pediatrician had turned into a ten hour day!

Saturday morning wasn't too bad, we spent the morning working on some chores and preparing Mother's Day gifts. We made these melted pony bead sun catchers I found on Pinterest for each of the grandmothers; they came out so cute!
We spent Saturday afternoon at my MIL's house, and Sunday had our annual visit to the zoo. We've gone every year on Mother's Day since Sunshine was a year old; this year my mom joined us as well.

Monday certainly lived up to its reputation. We started the day with two episodes of fecal smearing, the second of which came just minutes before the arrival of Fidget's early intervention case worker. She came by for me to fill out paperwork for adding OT to his services and choose an OT provider. As soon as she left I had to quickly feed the kids lunch, because Fidget's speech therapist was coming that day because of a schedule conflict on our normal day. While he was doing therapy I quickly ate lunch myself and got changed; as he was finishing up his Godmother (my cousin's daughter) arrived to babysit during his naptime, so that I could go with Sunshine to her Showoff Week for her homeschool gymnastics class. They learned routines for beam, bars, and floor, and after performing their coach scored them. Sunshine got a 9.1 on beam, 8.8 on bars, and 8.9 on floor. Because of the age spread in her class (6-13) the coach broke them down into age groups for ranking; Sunshine is the only 6/7yo, so she got 1st place in every event. :) 

Tuesday and Wednesday weren't busy with errands, but over the course of Sunday and Monday both kids had come down with colds, so there was a lot of dispensing of meds and trying to calm cranky children. Sunshine ran some low grade fever, but thankfully Fidget never did. I was also doing my best to get caught up on housework and encourage Sunshine to do at least a little bit of her schoolwork.

This morning Papa Bear and I were up early, to take Fidget in for his ear tube surgery. My mom came over before we left to stay at the house with Sunshine since she'd been sick. Papa Bear's mom & stepdad joined us at the surgery center. I'm so glad we were able to get the procedure scheduled quickly; despite being on antibiotics Dr B said his ears were BAD. He got lots of fluid out of each one when putting in the tubes, and also cauterized the adenoids. Fidget has had some trouble coming out of the anesthesia fog, and been very agitated. He was napping as I began this post, but is now resting with Papa Bear.

I'll be interested to see how his hearing results are when we repeat them in two weeks. For now, though, I'm headed off to fix lunch and love on my babies.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Motherhood and Mommy Wars

I'll introduce each of the kids in their own post next week, but with this being Mother's Day weekend I'd like to take some time to talk about motherhood. In particular, tonight I want to share my thoughts on society's view of motherhood, and mothers' views of each other. Tomorrow I hope to write about the influence of the Blessed Mother on my vocation.

Being a mom has been one of the greatest gifts of my life. As you might expect, I certainly dealt with a bit of depression after becoming a paraplegic. For starters, while I tried to trust in God's plan for my life, it was certainly a tough pill to swallow at 25 that I was not experiencing significant recovery, and was unlikely ever to do so without major advances in modern medicine. I felt like in many ways I was no longer the woman my husband had just married, and while I know he promised God he'd be with me in sickness, no one expects their vows to be tested so soon. We did after some rocky times pull our marriage even closer, but I often had feelings that my life didn't make much difference in the world. I wasn't suicidal at all, I was happy to be alive, but my life had little meaning. With my husband working, it didn't matter when I got up, when I got dressed, or what I did with my day. In our house at that time, I was limited in the contributions I could make to the running of our home. We valued our time together in the evening, but that was only a small portion of what I felt was an otherwise insignificant existence.

Giving birth to my daughter changed all of that. Suddenly I was important in the world. Not only did I have someone who cared about me, I had someone who needed me, and needed my time. I had a reason for getting up and moving every day. How I spent my time made a difference to someone. For the first time in five years, having a child actually helped me get off of antidepressants. My existence had a purpose again. I wasn't just the woman my husband came home to in the evening, I was a mother; and this precious life depended on me for her well-being and happiness.

When Sunshine was a year old, we finally moved into a home that is built for my needs, and I can now run my home instead of having others run it for me. In addition to making my life easier, and reduce the burden on Papa Bear, it also came with it a responsibility which I, as a stay at home mom, had been longing for. Yes, the cycle of never ending chores can be come tiresome and monotonous, but I try to do them joyfully, as a gift to my family. And having Fidget has brought even more love and meaning into all of our lives.

One of the big things that gets to me, though, is this mentality many people have that I, and others like me, are "just:" a mom: nothing special, nothing significant. When people learn that a highly educated woman - perhaps even someone with an established career - has "thrown it all away" to be "just" a stay at home mom, they demean our importance in the world. Why waste such time and money to spend your life at home raising kids, they wonder. If a young woman "only" wants to become a wife and mother, why should her parents encourage her to go to college?

For starters, I hardly consider my college attendance a waste. The acquisition of knowledge, and practicing the art of gaining knowledge for oneself, can never be considered invaluable. Just because we're living in the internet age, and can find out virutally anything with just a few taps of a keyboard, a click of a mouse, or a scroll of a touchscreen, doesn't mean that having that information in our own memories is useless. "The more you know," the NBC slogan used to say on Saturday mornings. Somehow having access to so much learning has devalued the experience and the concepts themselves.

Plus, there is so much learning that happens in college that doesn't take place in a classroom. Having attended an out of state university, I learned so much about life (and myself) that I never could have learned even by staying home for college, and esp. if I hadn't attended at all. Could I have learned many of those lessons without attending college? Sure. But they would have impacted my life in much different ways. Every day I draw strength from things I learned in my college years, both inside and outside the classroom.

I also fail to see how bringing life into the world, nurturing it, and helping it grow into adulthood can be seen as an insignificant use of a woman's time. I know many kids of my generation did it, I grew up in the time of the latch-key kids, but I honestly can't imagine growing up without my mom in the house. She has been such a strong source of support, knowledge, and love my whole life; and she remains so today. Working moms are certainly those things to their children, but an early childhood spent in daycare is definitely not the same experience as a childhood spent at home with mom and/or dad. Just as much as I'm so grateful I always had my mom there for me, I'm grateful to have the opportunity to be there for my children any time they need me, and not be trying to fit my family into a work schedule, or my job into my family schedule.

Now before I start getting things thrown at me by all the working parents out there, I'd like to address the rapant "mommy wars" that seem to be so prevalent in today's society. I know not everyone feels called to stay at home with their kids. It can make me sad sometimes to hear parents so eager to get rid of the presence of their own children, but I also know that being a 24/7 parent is hard work. I know there are other families where they can't get by without a second income, and single parents who are the home's only income. Those things might not be applicable to my own life, but that doesn't mean that my experiences and feelings invalidate those factors for others.

It seems like mommy wars go viral more often than almost anything else in social media. Moms chastise each other's decisions on vaccination, circumcision, parenting styles, educational paths, food choices, media exposure; the list is virtually endless. Some moms get tired of others projecting "pinterest perfect" existences to the world, and post about their shortcomings in an effort to "keep it real," but then other moms question why we're celebrating mediocrity when we should be striving for better? I personally have never construed it as celebrating mediocrity; when I put a *real* post on facebook it's more of a way to say, yeah, I fell short, and I'll try to do better next time, but the world didn't come to an end because of my failure to meet goals which were imposed strictly on myself. Most recently it's been a pair of posts: one pleading with mothers to put away the smart phones and engage with their sons and daughters when spending time together - the example of a park outing being specifically given; while the other one chastises the original commentator by saying look, you haven't seen what I've done with my kids all the other hours of the day, and I need a break just as much as they do.

I can definitely agree that there is some value to the lesson that so many of us - myself included - can easily find ourselves lost in the digital world of our phones and tablets, and miss the life that is happening right in front of us. However, there is equal value to the bottom line that we don't know what goes on behind other people's closed doors. Unfortunately there are indeed parents who are neglectful or abusive to their children; but the vast majority of us are doing our best at any given time. So for those of you who fall in the second category, I promise you this:

I will not judge you on this blog. Ever.

Did you serve your children three square meals and snacks consisting only of organically grown produce, grass fed meats, and other locally sources ingredients? Good for you, that's great that your kids have developed a palate that appreciates such healthy foods.

Did your kids eat fast food every single meal of the day? Well, it happens. You were probably caught up in a crazy day like the one I had yesterday. A simple pre-op pediatrician visit for Fidget (he's getting ear tubes this upcoming week) needed a second stop for bloodwork, then I had a crown fall off because the tooth under it broke and I needed an emergency dental visit. Oh, and there were crazy flooding rains, so an appointment I expected to return from before lunch ended up becoming a full day ordeal that didn't see us home until 7:45. But at least my kids were fed.

Are your children going to bed hungry tonight? Are you going to bed hungry because you gave the last of the food to them? I'm so sorry. I know what it is like to fall on tough times. I will pray for you to find the resources necessary to better provide for your family.

Is your child in private school? public school? homeschooled? Good for you for figuring out what environment your child learns in best. Is your child stuck in one of those situations because you have no other choice? I'm proud of you for working to make the best of an unfortunate situation.

Do you work outside the home? An in-home job? Is homemaker your sole occupation? Either way, you're working hard to support your family. Well done.

Are you more of a free range parent, trying to give your kids a "don't come home until the streetlight is on" childhood? That's terrific you are so confident in your children's abilities, and working hard to prepare them for the scenarios they may encounter. More of a helicopter mom? That's impressive that you can give them so much of your attention.

No matter what choices you make for your family, they are your choices, and yours alone. Most of us fall into different categories on any given day. With every moment, we are each making the best decision possible with the information available. Deciding on the best way to meet the many varying needs of an entire family is never an easy task. We may not understand the reasons why someone would choose an option which is vastly different than the one that works for our family, but they're not in our family. As long as they know why they made that decision, and are comfortable with it, that's all that matters.

So on this Mother's Day weekend, how about we all cut each other some slack. Assume that your fellow mom is doing what she thinks is best for her family. Our encounters with each other are brief; don't assume you know what has happened before, or will happen later. And if you see a mom who is struggling with some aspect of her role, how about trying to pick her up instead of pushing her down? No matter how you do it, this mom stuff is hard work; our children place enough demands on us, there's no need to make things more difficult for each other.

Have a happy Mother's Day everyone.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Mom on Wheels and Papa Bear - The love story endures tragedy

Welcome to the third installment of my love story with Papa Bear. You can read part one (the setup) here and part two (our dating, engagement, and marriage) here. Tonight is the climax of our story, as our vows are tested sooner than either of us expected.

It was March 24, 2005. Barely 5 months since Papa Bear and I were married. On this particular night he was only working an eight hour shift in the ER, so he had some time at home to himself as I headed in to start my 12hr shift on another unit of the same hospital. I had served and picked up dinner trays, and transferred one of our frequent patients to ICU. It was right at 8pm, I was checking the blood pressure of a 15mo little boy with sickle cell disease, when suddenly both of my legs from the knees down felt numb and tingly; just like when you sit on your foot and it "falls asleep." I finished my work with that patient, and went out to ponder the situation at the nurse's station.

You see, nearly 4 years prior on May 1, 2001, I had experienced an attack of a rare autoimmune disorder, Transverse Myelitis. The inflammation in my spinal cord had caused me to lose motor function in about six hours. Thankfully, I started to get return of function after about 2.5 weeks, and by the end of 2001 was almost completely recovered. But that attack had started with back pain and chest tightness, not leg numbness. And while not unheard of a second attack was extremely rare. I told my coworkers what was going on, trying to convince them and myself that it couldn't be TM again, but deep down my heart was gripped by fear.

After an hour of no improvement, I called my neurologist's clinic; but it was still so early the on call doc encouraged me to give it more time, but not hesitate to call back. 30 minutes later I was on the phone with him again; not only was it still not better, it was getting worse! I expressed to him how quickly my symptoms had come on the first time, and he knew even already being in hospital I didn't have time to sit in the ER. He said he would be on his way, and would examine me in an empty room on my unit. While he was on his way, I called Papa Bear and had him come up to be with me, as well as my parents. Meanwhile I was continuing to work as much as I could. Partly because I didn't want to leave my coworkers with a lot of unfinished tasks, but partly (though I couldn't confess my feelings to them) because I had a feeling paralysis was imminenet, and I didn't know how long it would be until I walked again.

By 11pm the on-call doctor had me admitted as a direct admit, and began writing orders. Around 1am, I asked my husband and (male) nurse to help me on to a bedside commode to use the bathroom, and these two strong guys nearly dropped me. During those two hours in bed, the function had left my lower body, never to return. In time it was confirmed that I did have a second attack of Transverse Myelitis, but over two years of physical and aquatic therapy yielded only minimal improvements.

Those two years were two of the hardest of my life. I had to learn how to live as independently as possible while in a wheelchair. Both Papa Bear and I had to adjust to him now being both my husband and caregiver. Our income was cut in half, but our expenses much larger due to medical bills and ongoing treatment costs. The reality of our situation caused Papa Bear to battle depression, and a bad medication adjustment found him briefly receiving inpatient psychiatric care. But as hard as they were in the moment, I can see them as such a gift now. Having conquered so many major challenges so early in our marriage, we are now even more confident that we can weather any challenges we face. We'll have our tenth anniversary this upcoming fall, and I love him more each day. It's not always easy, but every day I choose to stay in love with him and work to get past any hurdles attempting to block the path of our marriage.

As well, while I was initially in the hospital I received both the anointing of the sick and our priest prayed for the intercession of now-St. John Paul II, as I was still in hospital when he died. Some people say they didn't "work" because I am still disabled, but they provided me with tremendous spiritual healing. I can now accept and say with certainty that whatever divine purpose my life has, it is evidently something I can't accomplish as an able-bodied woman. I choose to embrace my disability rather than hide from it, so that I am able to carry out God's will for my life.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Mom on Wheels and Papa Bear - A Love Story (Pt 2)

Welcome to the second part of the story of my relationship with Papa Bear. You can find part one here.

As Papa Bear pulled into my parents driveway that Sunday to pick me up for our first date, my excitement grew. What is it about a southern boy in a pickup truck that is so irresistible? And lucky for me he turned out to be quite the gentleman too! Once we got back to his house I offered to help him with his preparations, and ended up peeling potatoes for him while we got to know each other. (And to this day, one of our favorite things is to be cooking together in the kitchen.) I told him about being a hospital nursing assistant, and he told me about being a volunteer firefighter. I was impressed and shared with him the story of the only time I'd ever needed to use my CPR skills outside of the hospital, about four months prior at my BFF's wedding reception. An older family member on her new husband's side collapsed, and I did chest compressions on the woman until some fire fighters and eventually the ambulance responded. Coincidentally he said he once ran a similar call, and after discussing more details we eventually realized we were talking about the same incident. He had been the first person from the fire department to arrive, and taken over chest compressions from me! As soon as he connected the dots, he said to me, "So you were the cute blonde in the little black dress!" Talk about scoring some major brownie points! I couldn't believe that here we were in the middle of trying to save this woman, we only had a passing encounter, and he remembered me after all that time.

The rest of the day went well, and by the time he brought me home we had arranged a dinner date for Friday evening. But I didn't have to wait until Friday to see him again; we actually ended up either seeing or talking to each other every day that week. On our first date I knew he was something special, and by Friday I was already growing certain he was *the one*. Not that I wasn't guarding myself, or that I was falling too fast, but having been with my previous boyfriend for four years, and having a string of one-time dates in between the two, I had a very clear picture of what I wanted in a man, and what I wouldn't tolerate. He wasn't Catholic like I was, but he was at least a man of strong Christian faith, and the one thing I wanted nothing to do with - his smoking - he was willing to give up, and did so after our first date.

Our relationship blossomed quickly. Our mutual friend/matchmaker, Cable Guy, was engaged, and after a short while we started joking with he and his fiance that we were talking about marriage too. Then we started talking between each other, what if it wasn't a joke, and we really did consider getting married? Before long the "if" in our conversation turned to a "when", he saved up some money, and about 3 1/2 months after we met he proposed just after Thanksgiving. If anyone else told me they were getting engaged so soon I'd think they were crazy, but in my heart I knew we were different, that this marriage was meant to be. The one thing I insisted on was that we be married in the Catholic church, which meant he would have to agree to raising our children Catholic as well. While Christian in his beliefs and upbringing, he was not practicing any particular denomination at that time, and had no problem agreeing to my request, as he recognized my faith was very important to me.

We were married in October 2004, only 14 months after our first date. The beginning of our marriage could not have been more perfect. By this time he was working in the ER at the same hospital where I was a CNA, and after our wedding and honeymoon I had switched from day to night shift, so that we were working at the same time. Most nights we were able to commute together, and we always tried to coordinate our dinner breaks; either he would come up to my unit to eat with me, or I would go down to the ER to eat with him. I can't imagine a more perfect newlywed period, but sadly it was quite short lived.

To read about the event that shook our marriage, and changed our lives forever, read part 3.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Papa Bear and Mom on Wheels - A Love Story (Pt 1)

As I'm still pretty new here, which means most of you are new to me, I'd like to tell you a bit more about all of us beyond what you'll find in the "About Us" section. Tonight I'll be writing about my relationship with Papa Bear; it's a great story and I don't want to leave anything out, so I'll be breaking it into parts. Each of the kids will also get their own post in the next few days.

When I moved back to my home state after attending an out-of-state university, it was with the expectation that my long-term boyfriend would be joining me in time. He actually came down here when I moved, and put in lots of job applications. We talked daily, but after about a month he told me he was no longer satisfied with the state of our relationship, and wanted some "space". (Umm, 1000+ miles wasn't enough space??) I told him that if after four years he wanted his space, then he could have it, and hung up the phone. That was the last time I spoke to him for about a year - more on that later.

After a couple of months, I started going out to try and meet new people, and some of my coworkers tried fixing me up as well. It was into August now, and I was preparing to resume my studies at a smaller college near home. My parents were going on a weekend trip, and all week long I was back and forth whether or not I wanted to go with them, and ultimately decided that being the last weekend before classes started that I'd rather stay home and get prepared. This seemingly simple decision wound up changing the course of my whole life.

While they were gone, they asked me to stick around home one afternoon so the cable company could send out a service technician. Lo and behold, the cable guy turned out to be an old friend from grade school. We sat and caught up, with me filling him in on my recent move back home and current relationship status, and before he left he asked for my number to pass on to his best friend, who was also single. Despite not talking to his friend, he promised I would receive a phone call by the end of that night. That night however, I had a blind date; one of my coworkers was fixing me up with a coworker of her husband, so I wasn't sure how it would turn out. That blind date was a DISASTER, I had nothing in common with this guy, and probably spent more time talking to my coworker and her daughter than my "date". But in a case of perfect timing, while the two guys were out picking up pizza, my phone rang.

Now as Papa Bear tells it, he was sitting at home minding his own business, when his friend - my cable guy - stops in and starts going on and on about crossing paths with some girl he knew ages ago. Then Cable Guy dropped a bombshell: he's already promised this girl that she'd get a phone call by the end of the night, so Papa Bear had better take this number and call this girl so he doesn't screw things up. And call the girl he did.

As I was still trying to be polite to my coworker for her attempts to fix me up, I told my unknown caller I wasn't able to talk right then, but I'd call later when I got back home. Papa Bear was convinced I was blowing him off, and was quite surprised when I actually kept my word and returned his call. We ended up having a great conversation, during which he invited me to a barbecue he was throwing at his house the next afternoon. I told him that sounded great but I was without access to a car, so he said as long as I didn't mind coming over early while he was cooking, he'd be happy to come pick me up.

The next day I was filled with nervous excitement, a feeling I hadn't experienced in a very long time. I was actually ready early, and peeking out the front windows waiting for him to show up! How would things turn out?? Well, you know the end result, but to find out what happened you'll have to read part two!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Answer Me This: May 4

Since this is such a new blog and I might actually gain some readers who don't know me already, I thought it would be fun to participate in Answer Me This from!

1. Are you becoming your mother?

Quite a bit, and that's not at all a bad thing! My mom was a SAHM herself until I, the youngest of three, started high school. And even then she got a part time job to pay my tuition after I asked to go to parochial instead of public school. It was a house rule that none of us drove in high school, so she drove me around to school, scouts, swim team, band and choir practices and performances, even my part-time job junior and senior year. I actually have not yet taken the required driver training to drive with hand controls (yes, I know it's been nine years, but they've been complicated!), so she still drives me and now my kids around, but I'd like to think that our homeschooling gives me the time to talk to and really know my kids that my mom and I had when it was just us running around in the car. I remember telling my mom we were trying to conceive our first child, and her concern that I'd never finish college. I felt bad, but on later reflection realized I would be following after my mom, and if I can be as much of a patient, loving parent as her then that's not a bad path to follow!

2. Coffee or tea?

Coffee if it's all dressed up with flavored syrups or creamers. Otherwise tea. I have no idea how many mugs of after work hot tea I fixed for my dad over the years, and oh what I wouldn't give to fix him one now! (He just lost a year-long battle with esophageal cancer in late February.) So hot with milk and sugar, or cold with sugar and sometimes lemon - this is after all the south! My favorite beverages, though, are half sweet tea half lemonade, and Dr Pepper.

3. What foreign country would you like to visit?

I'm the granddaughter of immigrants, so I would love to visit Slovakia one day!

4. Do you cry easily?

Umm, yes indeed, and I've got the happy pills to prove it! Losing your Dad to cancer at the same time your son is being evaluated for autism is tough! Seriously, though, yes I do tend to be rather emotional. I don't think I've ever watched the beginning of Up or the end of Toy Story 3 without tearing up.

5. How often do you wear heels?

Almost never, and the ones I do are small heels. Wearing heels in a wheelchair is an acquired skill, and I've generally been more concerned with figuring out how to carry a baby at various ages, pick my babies up off the floor without falling out of the chair, etc.

6. Do you play an instrument?

Yes, flute and piccolo. Played all through middle and high school, and was in my university marching band both years I went there. I really should pull it back out from time to time; I'd be woefully out of practice!

Sunday reset

I love Sundays, for so many reasons. The peace and strength I gain from attending mass (though we've been really slacking on mass attendance lately) is an important part of my life. It's the one day of the week I can almost always guarantee Papa Bear won't be working; with the work his company does, his work hours depend on the terms of the contract and policies of the job site he's working on, and the last few months it has included a lot of Saturdays. Every Sunday the extended members of Papa Bear's family gather for Sunday lunch, and usually at least some of us are in attendance. I enjoy spending time with my in-laws, but lately Sunday has become an important day for me to take a little time for solitude and recharge for the week ahead.

Papa Bear got up with Sunshine and Fidget, and took them early to visit his parents. This is huge for me; because of my paralysis I struggle with chronic fatigue issues, and being able to take my time getting moving helps me pace myself for the rest of the day. If we're not attending mass as a family, I typically watch mass or at least read through the day's scripture readings and pray a rosary before getting up. Then I've got the house to myself to take care of whatever I want or need to accomplish.

With Sunshine and Fidget home all day every day, there is very little time to myself in my daily life. On Monday afternoons my mom takes Sunshine to gymnastics which coincides with Fidget's nap time, but 90 minutes a week is just not enough to myself. Sometimes it's something as simple as anything but preschool channels on tv, or slightly more adult music on Pandora (which is what I have on as I'm writing this morning; right now it's playing "Ho Hey" by The Lumineers). Sometimes I just want to hang out on Facebook, Pinterest, and playing games on my iPad. Typically though it's time to accomplish tasks which are hard to focus on with two kids in the house.

Sunshine is quite independent for a six year old, but there's still lots of "Mama, can I...", not to mention homeschool lessons to teach/supervise, chores to enforce, attitudes to handle, and back and forth with her neighborhood friends in the afternoon. And Fidget, God bless him, didn't start saying Mama until after his second birthday (after starting speech therapy through our state's early intervention program). It's a beautiful sound to hear after so much time, but I sometimes think he's trying to make up for lost time! Sometimes I can't even turn to look at something else in the room without him shouting "Ma-MA! Ma-MA!" not to mention his sensory-seeking tendency to get into everything - the usual 2yo mischief, only amplified - and the very real concern that his Pica will find him ingesting the one little Lego that rolled away or something equally inappropriate. Put it all together and it doesn't leave much time to focus on things that aren't child-oriented without staying up late.

Yet there are always clothes and dishes to wash and put away, just like any other parent. There are also homeschool papers to grade and lessons to plan. Calendar events to coordinate: doctor and therapy appointments, extracurricular activities, social gatherings, church events. I do of course chip away on those things throughout the week, but to have a large block of time to hear my own thoughts and focus on those things is priceless. Papa Bear organized a great backyard barbeque yesterday afternoon to celebrate my birthday, but after our children themselves my Sunday reset time is truly the best gift of all.

Friday, May 2, 2014

How I Got Here

During my first pregnancy, people said, "You'll be raising a child and you're a paraplegic, that's so interesting! You should write a blog!" But I'm just a regular mom aside from the wheelchair, who would want to read about me?

When I started homeschooling my oldest, people said, "You should blog about your homeschooling!" But there are so many great homeschool blogs out there, and I'm just a beginning homeschooler; what would I have to share?

Then my youngest was diagnosed with Autism. Again people said, "You're a disabled mom homeschooling your gifted daughter, and now working with your autistic son. You've got so many unique perspectives to share." So I started thinking about it.

Last night, one of my favorite bloggers, who has two sons with autism, wrote about how we need to tell our stories. Then this morning, the topic of starting a blog came up in one of my Facebook groups. Today is my birthday, and after 34 years I think God is telling me it's time to start sharing.

And now here I am. So pull up a chair (don't worry, I brought my own), and join me as I share the stories of my life in all my many roles. I'm a woman living with paralysis, a wife, a stay at home mom, a homeschooler, and a cradle Catholic keeping my faith at the center of it all.